School leaders call for action from Catholic Church to end selection


Secondary school heads are urging the Catholic Church in Northern Ireland to do more to rid the education system of academic selection.

The Catholic Principals’ Association (CPA) wants to see an end to “dubious” 11-plus testing in the North.

Thousands of children received the results of unofficial transfer tests on Saturday past.

Grammar schools continue to operate academic selection tests in defiance of Church leaders and the education minister.

Now, the CPA is calling on the Church to facilitate an urgent meeting of representatives of grammar and non-selective post-primary schools.

Michele Corkey, chairperson of the CPA, is principal of St Mark’s High School in Warrenpoint, Co Down. She said: “Dubious testing, wide variation in grades for admission and uneven competition between schools are having a negative and divisive impact on our primary and post-primary schools.

“They are undermining the whole Catholic system and are conducted annually in clear and open defiance of successive statements by the Northern Catholic Bishops and opinion of Catholic and other educators.”

Principals say academic selection turns what should be a drive for the common good into uneven competition and narrow individualism.

Primary schools, they add, should not be service agencies to selective schools nor training grounds for increasingly meaningless and irrelevant testing.

Ms Corkey continued: “Many parents enter their children for unregulated tests because they feel compelled to follow established practice and undertake a high-stakes gamble.

“This does not necessarily imply approval or acceptance of academic selection, merely the absence in many areas of a viable alternative. 

“Evidence elsewhere indicates that tests are by-passed by parents where and when high-quality, all-ability schools are available.”

A publicly funded system, she adds, must be consciously and strategically geared to the greater good of all children, not to the consolidation of relative privilege for some.

She said: “We cannot continue with mismatch between principles consistently outlined by Catholic leaders and consistently ignored by some Catholic schools.

“No one member or group of members of the Catholic family of schools is more important or less important than others.

“It is time for the Northern Catholic Bishops to use authority rather than re-state principles and then allow successive timescales to lapse.”


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